Reading speed

During my Delta I put together a course proposal designed to help IELTS students improve their reading and writing skills. As part of it I did a needs analysis. Here are two of the questions:

D2: How do you feel about reading in English?

1 (It’s very difficult – I often don’t understand) 0
2 4
3 1
4 1
5 (It’s very easy – I always understand) 0

D3: Why?

“I think I need to learn more vocabulary”

“The time is very short for deep reading, so when I skim through the article, I can’t find the right answer easily. Moreover sometimes in T, F and NG  question, I find it hard to decide whether it was F or NG”

“i have to read more news paper and do alot of practice”

“i am worried about time because texts are very long so time is my enemy”

“no time”

Half of the students mentioned time as a particular problem, so I had to look for ways to help them. It was difficult to find much information about reading speed, but I strongly believe that it is an area which needs more of a spotlight on it, especially for exam students. I have therefore tried to share what I found, but I would be grateful if anyone else has any ideas.

FInding an appropriate speed

The only methodology book which I could find with information about reading speed was Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language* by Christine Nuttall (3rd edition: 2005).  She says:

A flexible reading speed is the sign of a competent reader. Instead of plodding through everything at the same careful speed, or always trying to read as fast as possible, students must learn to use different rates for different materials and different purposes, and must have practice in assessing what type of reading is appropriate in various circumstances. Unless you encourage them to skim and scan and treat some texts with a degree of irreverance, they may never learn to take these risks, which are a necessary step towards becoming a more effective reader. (p31-32)

Now it’s true that we may tell students to skim or scan certain texts, or that we may give them questions or a time limit to try and encourage them to do this, but what can we actually do to help slow readers learn to process text faster?

*I get 10% of anything you spend if you click on the Amazon link and choose to buy something. Thanks in advance!

Average speeds

The average native speaker reads at approximately 300wpm (words per minute) according to most sources I could find. One article on Forbes lists the average reading speeds for different kinds of native speakers, including college graduates and high-level executives. In contrast, Jensen (1986:106, in Anderson 1999) states that “at the end of a reading course, even advanced ESL students may read only 100 words per minute or less.” To get a sense of what different speeds feel like, Breaking News English has the same text available at 100, 200 and 300 wpm.

As well as getting through the words, you also need to understand them. Nuttall states that 70% comprehension is generally considered enough (p58). Non-native speakers have various problems here:

  • unknown vocabulary;
  • vocabulary which they only recognise in spoken, but not written form;
  • cultural information;
  • unfamiliar or complicated grammatical structures;
  • (for some learners) characters different to their own language, and possibly in a different direction too;
  • and probably many other things…

It is therefore important to choose relatively straightforward texts, generally below the student’s current reading level, when focussing on reading speed.

(Arabic speakers may have an additional problem, which you can read more about here.)

Testing reading speed

Nuttall describes a method for finding out students’ reading speed which is unfortunately far too long to reproduce here. You can find it on page 57 of her book.

There are many different reading speed tests available online and as apps, which you can use easily if you have internet access, or by asking students to find out their reading speed at home. These tests are all designed for native speakers, so students need to have a fairly high level of English to use them in order to reduce the number of problems which they might encounter from the list above. Here are some of the ones I’ve tried:

There are many other sites and apps available. The best ones have comprehension questions after the speed test to give you an adjusted speed based on how much you understood. In case you’re interested, I read at about 400 wpm in English on a screen – I read somewhere that screen reading speeds are normally slower than paper speeds.

I love reading
I wonder how fast he can read?
(Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @katysdavis, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/)

Not always bad

Two habits which I used to discourage my students from in the past were subvocalizing (forming the sounds of the words while you are reading, and sometimes even murmuring them) and following the text with a finger/pencil. I have now realised that I do these things too sometimes, as it can be appropriate for some texts. However, if this is the only way your students can read, then you need to help them broaden their range of reading styles, or to select reading matter which is more suited to their level in terms of grammar, vocabulary and cultural knowledge.

Why is slow reading a problem?

In an ideal world it wouldn’t matter how quickly students read, and they would have all the time they needed to get through every text. In reality, students who can only read slowly are probably losing out in class, as their classmates race ahead. They will also find exams more difficult. Finally, it stops them from becoming the effective reader described at the start of this post. As Nuttall says:

The relationship between reading speed and comprehension is complex, but they are certainly closely linked. A slow reader is likely to read with poor understanding, if only because his memory is taxed: the beginning of a paragraph may be forgotten by the time he has struggled to the end of it. But it is not clear which is the cause and which the effect: do people read quickly because they understand easily, or do they understand easily because of the speed at which they read? (p54)

By only treating reading as a vehicle for grammar or vocabulary, or at best a few comprehension questions, rather than training students to improve their reading speed, we are leaving slow(er) readers behind, and denying them the chance to reap the benefits of a range of reading styles. Here are some ways you can help them.

Chunking

Fluent readers group text into multi-word chunks or ‘sense groups’, enabling them to move across the text quickly. Each position their eye stops in is called a ‘fixation’. The fewer fixations your eye makes, the faster you will read. For example, the previous sentence might be broken into the following sense groups by an efficient reader:

The fewer fixations / your eye makes, / the faster / you will read.

Less efficient readers might chunk it like this:

The fewer / fixations your/ eye /makes, the /faster you /will read.

or even read it word by word. Nuttall again:

The student’s problem is often that he does not know the target language well enough to chunk effectively. Many students read word by word, especially if the text is difficult, so to encourage good reading habits, a lot of practice with easy texts is needed. There is never enough time for this in the classroom, so this is [an] important purpose for an extensive reading programme. (p55)

To train students to chunk effectively, it is important to use texts which are relatively easy, as Nuttall says above. There are various things you can then do with the text (adapted from Nuttall p55):

  • Put it into centred columns on a page. The reader tries to force himself to make one fixation per line:

Centred column

  • Do the same thing, but have students use a ‘mask’ (a piece of paper) to reveal the lines as they are reading them. You can also do this on an OHP (or using some IWB software, but I don’t know specifics) to manage the speed they’re reading at.
  • Put it into Spreeder. Set it so that it is just above the students current reading speed. For example, if they read at 100wpm, set it for 120wpm. You can choose the size of the chunks, but unfortunately it doesn’t chunk in sense groups. However, it requires a lot less work than either of the ideas above! It is also something students can use at home very easily.

I also think that this concept is a good argument for using the lexical approach, as that should help students to recognise chunks more easily.

Other ideas

Encouraging students to use a mask (a piece of card with a whole cut out to show only one line and the first part of the next) can give them more awareness of the speed at which they are reading. By moving it down the page at a constant speed it forces them to move their eyes faster and not get bogged down when they come across words they don’t understand. They could also hold a piece of card above the lines that they are reading – Nuttall (p59) recommends above rather than below the line, so that the flow of the eye from one line to the next is not interrupted.

These two links will take you to other activities you can try to help students improve their reading speed:

Increasing reading speed for EAP: three areas to focus on – Katy Simpson Davis

Improving reading speed: activities for the classroom – Neil J. Anderson

There are also hundreds of sites aimed at native speakers to help improve reading speed, which you can find through any search engine.

Summary of key points

To become effective readers, students need to be in control of a range of reading techniques, one of which is the ability to read a text quickly.

Being able to read quickly is particularly important for exam students, who normally have to read a lot of text in a short period of time.

Texts used to practise reading speed should be below the student’s current reading level.

Chunking is an important skill that efficient readers have, enabling them to read groups of words in one go, without having to read every word separately.

I hope you have found this useful. Do you do anything else to help your students improve their reading speed?

Useful links for Delta

During my Delta I gathered a list of links which I returned to again and again. I’ve also seen many useful links since that I wish had been around before I started my course! I thought I’d share these with you, and I will try and keep the list up-to-date as I find more things which I consider useful. Please let me know in the comments if you think I have missed anything or if any of the links are broken.

delta-header

General

Before you decide that Delta is the right qualification for you, take a look at this list of alternatives from Jim at SpongeELT. Sam Smith did the Delta and the DipTESOL in the same year (top tip: don’t do this – it’s a heck of a lot of work!) and has compared the two qualifications. Pete Clements’ tips on How to get a DipTESOL Distinction are equally applicable to doing the Delta.

James Fuller has a general introduction to Delta. I particularly like this paragraph:

Before doing Delta I had in my mind that Delta was an impossible-to-conquer beast that only those teachers with years and years of experience would even consider taking on. Now, whilst I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking on Delta with less than two, perhaps even three years of experience, I would, however, recommend viewing it differently than I did. You see, I was looking at it the wrong way. Delta is not just exams and ridiculous amounts of assignments, LSAs, etc., it is a programme in true professional development. YOU are the starting point and Delta then makes you look at that and then look at where you want/need to be. It is hard. It is long. But, it is massively worthwhile.

If you want everything in one place, try ‘How to Pass Delta‘, a very reasonably priced e-book written by Damian Williams, who was one of the tutors on my course. Another excellent resource is ELT Concourse’s Delta index, recommended by Katy M. I particularly like the myth-busting they do about Delta.

ITI Istanbul have produced a webinar lasting a little over an hour, also called How to pass Delta:

Sally Hirst, who presented the ITI webinar above, is in the process of compiling a very useful website about the Delta modules – as of August 2021, it includes clear study tips on how to study for Module One, how to find what to read and how to read what you find. There is also a set of questions to help you work out what you might need to read for Delta Module Two, though much of the reading you do is applicable to all three modules.

I collected all of the Delta posts I have written on my blog into one page. The one which is probably most useful is called Preparing for the Delta, including advice about some good books to read before the course and a lot of ways you can improve/brush up on your Word skills in preparation for all of the typing you’ll end up doing.

Lizzie Pinard, who got a Distinction in all three modules, has been writing an incredibly useful series of posts about the Delta since she finished her course. Here is her annotated list of the resources she read before and during the course. Sue Swift regularly posts useful materials on The Delta Course blog.

Alex Walls has a selection of useful Delta resources, including reading lists for each module.

Chris Wilson wrote a summary of an ELTchat entitled ‘How to survive, and make the most of, your Delta‘. Chris also recommended tools he uses to keep track of references from his background reading for Delta, and shared his Delta diary from throughout the course.

Anthony Ash did the Delta full-time in Autumn 2014, and wrote a series of posts about his thoughts on various things that come up during the course. These cover the highs and lows of someone going through Delta, and give a good overview of what the course is like. He has also written a series of posts offering a general introduction to the course, particularly useful if you have no idea what it is or how it works!

Olya Sergeeva has written about her Delta too, as has Emma Johnston and Dr Harriet Lowe. Harriet talks about the gaps between L2 teaching and L2 research in her series of 5 posts, as well as what she feels she got out of the course as a whole.

If you’re considering doing a Distance version of the course, but are struggling to find a local tutor, Alex Case may be able to help.

The facebook group Delta and DipTESOL – Candidates and Survivors is a great place to go for advice.

If you are worried about academic writing as part of your Delta course, you may be interested in this short course from CELT Athens, called Academic Writing for the Cambridge Delta. [Note: I haven’t seen or done this course, but I think the premise is interesting, and I know it’s a reputable centre. The inclusion of the link does not consitute a recommendation!]

Finally, although this is advice designed for MA students, I think Laura Patsko’s tips on how to recover from an MA can definitely be applied to Delta candidates too!

Module One

I’ve created a Take your time Delta Module One course. It runs over 30 weeks, with about 3 hours of work per week.

Emma Johnston has self-study tips for Module One, based on the post-2015 version of the exam.

[Please note: the rest of these links are based on the old version of the exam. Many of them are still relevant, but please check carefully that the descriptions of the questions match up with the updated version of the exam.]

ELT Concourse has a comprehensive Module One preparation course, which is completely free. You probably won’t need many of the other resources here if you use that, but just in case…

I created a ‘Delta’ group on Quizlet, which contains all of the Delta-related flashcards I made/could find. Quizlet is a great resource to help you brush up on your terminology, which is especially useful for parts one and two of Paper One of the exam. If you have never used Quizlet, here is my guide to show you how to make the most of it. There is also an app available for Apple devices.

The Cambridge website has a list of materials for Delta candidates, including various past papers. David Harbinson has compiled a list of books and resources for Delta Module One.

James Fuller has a guide showing you how to prepare for the exam. Dale Coulter created a step-by-step guide to the Delta exam, divided into one post for each of the two papers: Paper One; Paper Two. Lizzie Pinard did the same: Paper One; Paper Two. She also created a list of useful resources to help you revise for the exam, as well as a countdown which you can use as a last-minute checklist to make sure you know everything, or a starting point to plan your studies. Ricardo Barros describes how he prepared for the exam, as do Yuliya Speroff and Sérgio Pantoja. I’ve written a post with ideas about how to lay out your answers in the exam and information on how I prepared for it (though this is now perhaps out of date due to changes in the exam since I took it).

Emma Gore-Lloyd made an infographic with questions for evaluating the effectiveness of a test, relevant to Paper 2 Question 1, and much prettier to look at than a lot of the things I was revising from!

You can also find a guide to the exam on ELT Notebook and tips from Lu Bodeman. Roya Caviglia has created a flowchart with a breakdown of the marks for each section of the exam. Barry O’Leary has general tips for how to prepare for the Delta exam and tips for dealing with Module 1Elliot Brett wrote about how he felt about doing the exam and his tips for success. Jamie Clayton reviewed the Distance Delta Module One course.

Module Two

If you’re trying to decide where to do your Delta Module Two course, Sue Swift has a set of useful questions.

Information about all of my Delta Module Two assignments is available on my Delta page, including a summary of feedback on two passes (one merit for an essay) and two fails, so you can get some idea of the problems I had and what I learnt from my experience. At the other end of the scale, Ricardo Barros tells us how he got a distinction in at least three of his LSAs (nobody ever finds out about LSA4!) and shares his bibliographies. He has also shared the bibliographies from Konstantinos’ LSAs, mostly focussing on young learners. Stewart offers practical tips for writing your background essay and lesson plan based on his experience from his first two LSAs.

Lizzie Pinard gives you her reading list and feedback from her LSA1 on lexis (collocations), and Tiago Bueno goes into a lot of detail about his LSA3 on reading. Jim Fuller from Sponge ELT has a list of tips for the whole of Module 2, along with his reference lists for all of the assignments he wrote. Alex Walls talks about how to succeed in Module 2. Martin Hajek shares his Module 2 tips, including a list of books he found it useful to read.

Matthew Smith shared his Delta Module Two assignments and Joanna Malefaki shared her grammar one and her vocabulary one. Jemma Gardner shared her experimental practice assignment, on the subject of Dogme, and Rachel Tsateri shared her lesson plan on the same topic. Ricardo Barros has shared an example of some of the materials for his LSAs on phrasal verbs and listening. ELT notebook also has examples on developing fluency and phrasal verbs. Emma Halliday shared an example of a listening essay (merit) and lesson plan (pass). Please bear in mind that Cambridge does not take plagiarism lightly, and it can result in you being banned from the course – these are examples only, so please do not copy from them!

Talk TEFL has a Delta LSA survival kit full of lots of tips and decoding some of the many acronyms on Delta courses.

Katy M has written about her experience of doing Delta Module Two, including some practical tips for how to reduce your stress levels. Jamie Clayton wrote some notes from different weeks of the Module Two course, including tips for planning lessons.

Christina Rebuffet-Broadus and Jennie Wright have written a book called ‘Experimental Practice in ELT‘ which came directly out of their experiences of Delta Module 2. It includes lesson plans and ideas for the five most popular topics for the Experimental Practice part of the Professional Development Assignment. It’s available from the-round for a very reasonable price.

Mike Harrison runs the Experimental Practice Academy blog, including interviews with various people about their Delta experimental practice.

Lizzie Pinard explains:

And if you need a bit of a laugh, I would highly recommend The stages of a Delta assignment, all of which I have definitely experienced! You could also read The Secret DoS on why we should banish the word ‘practise’ from our aims.

Module Three

Dublin TEFL have a guide to help you choose your specialism for Module 3.

Read this before you start writing anything: Lina Gordyshevskaya has practical tips which will make completing your Module 3 assignment more efficient and hopefully save you time and stress.

Information about my Module 3 assignment, on teaching exam classes, with a specific focus on IELTS reading and writing, is available on my Delta page.

Jim Fuller at Sponge ELT has written a very comprehensive guide to what Module 3 is, ideas for how to approach it, and supplied a very long reading list you could use as a starting point. Martin Hajek reflected on his Module 3 experience, and talked about why he recommends you find a tutor to help you, or at least somebody who can read your assignment.

An overview of types of syllabus was a useful primer for different types of syllabus, although I would recommend reading about them in more depth before you write about them.

Jonny Lewington shared his Module 3 essay on young learners, for which he got a distinction (well done!). He also has a related book list on his blog. Robert William has shared his Module 3 essay on IELTS. Please remember that these are samples only: Cambridge looks on plagiarism very seriously – if you copy sections of these assignments, you are likely to  be disqualified from the course.

Yuliya Speroff has written about her whole Delta experience, and has included her reference list for the Module 3 EAP syllabus she wrote. Anthony Ash has a general overview of Module 3. Lizzie Pinard has guides to writing each section of the Module 3 assignment:

Skills

Skills are reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Lizzie Pinard’s Delta Notes* is a series Lizzie has produced based on the notebooks she kept during her Delta course. Here are her notes on:

Sue Swift has a 9-minute presentation introducing skills and sub-skills, with particular reference to listening and speaking. Rachael Roberts has a post which asks What do we mean by speaking skills? This is useful as a starting point to help you think about sub-skills and come up with a more specific speaking aim for an LSA.

I have a list of online bookmarks, which I constantly add too. The links below take you to the bookmarks tagged ‘Delta’ and:

Systems

Systems are grammar, lexis, phonology and discourse management.

I looked at conditionals (grammar) and multi-part verbs (lexis) for my two systems LSAs. For the latter, I found a couple of particularly useful articles in the Macmillan Dictionaries magazine, including one about the pronunciation of phrasal verbs, by Adrian Underhill. You can find my full bibliography in my assignment on my Delta page.

Lizzie Pinard’s Delta Notes* is a series Lizzie has produced based on the notebooks she kept during her Delta course. Here are her notes on:

I have a list of online bookmarks, which I constantly add too. The links below take you to the bookmarks tagged ‘Delta’ and:

Other

Lizzie Pinard’s Delta Notes* on:

Emma Gore-Lloyd is doing the Delta at IH Seville intensively in autumn 2014. She’s writing a series of posts including some reflection questions for her weekly blogging.

I have a list of bookmarks on diigo to which I regularly add. I tag all of the ones I think are relevant to Delta. You can subscribe to the list to find out when I add anything new.

Remember that it will all be over at some point, and you’ll be able to go through the post-Delta phases described by Joanna Malefaki.

And finally, if it’s all getting a bit much, go and see English Droid.

(*This series is a work in progress, and I will add more links to it as Lizzie writes the posts.)

Good luck!

Questions students have

About two months ago, my intermediate class put together a video to help students coming to International House Newcastle, by answering some of the questions they thought new students might have. This was the result:

To get to the final product, this is what happened:

  • The students talked to each other about what questions they had before they came to the school and in the first couple of weeks, as well as how they tried to find out the answers.
  • They wrote their questions on small pieces of paper – one question per piece of paper – and stuck them to two whiteboards.
  • I divided the class in half. Each group had one whiteboard. They had to divide the questions into categories of their own choosing.
  • They then compared the categories they had with the other group, merged any which were the same, and moved round any which were different.
  • This resulted, quite conveniently, in 5 categories, which was exactly how many pairs there were.
  • With their partner, students selected the most important/interesting questions from their category, so that they had 3-4 questions per pair.
  • They came up with possible answers themselves, supplemented with information from the internet and from me. They decided how they would turn their questions/answers into video form.
  • The pairs took turns going into an empty classroom with my digital camera and mini tripod to make their section of the video. After each, we transferred it to my computer so I could start editing while the next pair filmed.
  • By the end of a two-hour lesson every pair had finished filming. As each pair finished, they came and told me what they wanted me to do in terms of the editing. They also found any pictures that they wanted to add to the video.
  • At home, I spent quite a few hours editing the video, then sent it to my students for approval and to see if there was anything else that needed changing. I made the necessary changes and then reuploaded it to vimeo, which I think is a lot better than YouTube for things like this because it feels more intuitive, and the advertising is more subtle.
  • Hopefully it will appear on the school website somewhere soon 😉

Spicing up grammar revision

One of my advanced students asked if we could do a lesson about the differences between ‘would’, ‘should’ and ‘could’. I looked around but couldn’t find anything that really helped. In the lesson I came up with we ended up looking at them separately in depth, but there wasn’t much comparing and contrasting them, or any controlled practice, as I was pushed for time when planning. I did create one exercise, available below, with the help of the BBC World Service explanation of the differences.


(You can download it by clicking ‘slideshare’ and logging in – it’s free to create an account, and you can link via facebook if you want to.)

Answers: 1. should; 2. would; 3. could; 4. should; 5. should, would; 6. would; 7. should, would; 8. could [he didn’t have the ability to finish]; 9. would, could [I would if I could, but I can’t so I won’t 🙂 ]; 10. should, could, would

Over three and a half hours (two lessons), this is what happened:

  • I taught the class a few items of ‘playing card’ vocabulary, by drawing it on the board: ace, jack, queen, king, diamond, spade, club, heart, suit, picture card. To find out why, keep reading…
  • I put students into pairs.
  • Each student had three double-page spreads from Scott Thornbury’s Natural Grammar*, one each for ‘would’, ‘should’ and ‘could’. One page had the rules, and the other had exercises.
  • The pairs worked together to complete the exercises, and they could do them in any order. As they were advanced students, I didn’t need to present the grammar to them, and they were confident enough to ask me for help whenever they needed it.
Doing the exercises
Doing the exercises
  • As they completed each exercise, the pairs would come to me (i.e. they did one exercise, I checked it, they did another). I would tell them if they were 100% correct, or if not, how many errors they had, but not where they were. They would then correct the errors. If they still had errors the second time, I would tell them where. After the third time, I would put them right, if it took them that many attempts.
  • This is where the cards come in. Once an exercise was 100% correct, the students could take a random card. Between ‘would’, ‘should’ and ‘could’ there were 10 exercises, so once they had completed all of them, they should have 10 cards. This worked perfectly as I had 5 pairs 🙂
Pick a card, any card
Pick a card, any card
  • It took the students about 3 hours to complete the 12 exercises, with lots of to-ing and fro-ing and a lot of discussion. After that, the students worked together to decide whether the sentences in the worksheet above needed ‘would’, ‘should’ or ‘could’.
  • On the board, I drew the symbols for the four suits of playing cards in a random order (e.g. spades, diamonds, clubs, hearts). I also told them that aces = one in this game.
  • We then all sat around a single empty table.
  • The students had to choose one card from the 10 they had collected during the grammar exercises and place it face down on the table.
  • I told them the first answer: ‘should’. If they had the wrong answer, they lost their card completely. If they had the right answer, they could turn it over. The highest number won a point for the sentence (‘trick’). If two teams had the same high number, then the order of the suits on the board was followed (from the list above, the ten of spades would be better than the ten of diamonds, for example).
  • We repeated this for the rest of the sentences. When a question had more than one gap, they had to get all of the gaps correct to play for the point. I reminded the students that tactics might be important too, which resulted in one pair winning a point with a 6, because the other pairs had all thrown away 2s and 3s!
Making tactical decisions
Making tactical decisions

I realise that sounds quite complicated, but it went really well. Everyone got really competitive about the cards they selected after each grammar exercise, even though it was completely random! They enjoyed the game and said it made the grammar more interesting.

If you have any ideas for how I could have taught this lesson more usefully in terms of comparing the three modals, particularly for ways of providing freer practice, please please please share them in the comments!

*I get 10% of anything you spend if you click on the Amazon link and choose to buy something. Thanks in advance!

Delta conversations: Roya

This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter @sandymillin.

Roya Caviglia is currently setting up her own business to offer in-company courses in the Randstad area, South Holland: EnglishVoice. She blogs at LanguageLego and tweets at @RoyaCaviglia

Roya Caviglia

How did you do your Delta?
How did you arrange the modules?
Why did you choose to do it that way?

I did the Delta over a year or so, tackling one module at a time and moving house from Geneva to Hamburg in the middle. I started with module 3 because you need a class to use as a case study (I anticipated some time out of work after the move). Then I sat the module 1 exam shortly arriving in Hamburg. I studied with the Distance Delta for these two modules. Finally, I went to London for 6 weeks to do module 2 at International House.

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

If you had asked me that question immediately after completing the course I would have found it hard to answer. My head was so full of teaching approaches that for a while I was in a quandary every time I sat down to plan a lesson! Things get clearer with time, your brain needs some space to digest it all.

A year and a half down the line I think my answer is confidence.

I know that I have worked hard, have gained a lot of experience and that I have a grip on the theory that backs everything up. I know how to study by myself and I still try to do a little research before starting each new course. I want to make sure that I am utilising the methodology that will best help each particular student.

How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the Delta in the format you chose?

If you are looking at the Distance Delta, be aware that you will probably need a lot more time than they estimate on their website. I found I needed almost double their suggestion. This was a common observation on the participant forum!

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

Studying at home is not always easy. I remember having all my books spread out on the kitchen table and glancing nervously at the clock as it got closer to dinner time, knowing I would have to pack up and clear out the way! Of course there is also the issue of motivation.

Module 2 in London was difficult as I was away from my family for several weeks. And one should never, never underestimate how intensive it is! There were tears. I’m convinced that is the case on every full time Module 2 course (and the intensive Celta for that matter!).

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

I was able to combine Module 3 with work. And Modules 1 and 2 fit in nicely and kept me busy while I was establishing myself in a new country and did not have much in the way of work.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

  • Do your research, there are so many different ways to take the course, find out which route is really the best for you.
  • Be aware that it will be intense and sometimes painful – always keep in mind why you are doing it!
  • Revel in the chance to take time out and examine our profession, it is a rare opportunity.
  • Consciously step back and watch your teaching improve!